Coronavirus: Spain Beachgoers Practice Social Distancing

Chipiona police in southern Spain posted this video on its Facebook page, thanking beachgoers for practicing social distancing.

Spain is scrambling to stay ahead of new outbreaks of the coronavirus that prompted the U.K. to impose a quarantine on travelers returning from the country, dealing a new blow to its tourism-dependent economy.

Only weeks after the U.K. included Spain on a list of countries safe for summer holidays, the government reversed course and announced late Saturday it would impose a 14-day quarantine on anyone arriving from Spain. The move came after cases in the country jumped, particularly in the Catalonia region, where authorities are racing to stamp out new outbreaks.

Norway on Friday announced a 10-day quarantine for people returning from Spain, and France issued new travel warnings for the Catalonia region, which is home to Barcelona and popular beaches. The moves will further weigh on bookings in the peak travel period for a country that depends on tourism for more than 10% of gross domestic product.

Spain’s health ministry reported more than 920 new cases on both Thursday and Friday, the highest numbers since early May, when the government began easing one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns. Most of those were in the region of Catalonia in northeastern Spain, where authorities have been expanding restrictions to try to flatten the curve. In Barcelona, nightclubs have been ordered shut for two weeks and there is a midnight curfew on bars. A partial lockdown affecting 200,000 people has already been imposed in the western district of Segria.

TUI UK, the country’s biggest tour operator and a unit of the German travel company, suspended all its holidays to mainland Spain through Aug. 9, Sky News reported. The World Travel & Tourism Council called the U.K. decision a “bitter blow” for travelers and said local lockdowns, not broader travel restrictions would be a better solution.

“We are quite frustrated. We actually feel safer here, because everyone is wearing masks,” Carolyne Lansell, a British tourist, said in an interview with Spanish state-television broadcaster TVE.

The Spanish government is trying to convince the U.K. government to exempt the Balearic and Canary islands, where infections are “far below” U.K. rates, from the quarantine order, Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya said in a statement Sunday. The two island regions are among Spain’s biggest tourist destinations for foreigners.

“Spain is a safe country,” Gonzalez Laya said. “Spain has outbreaks. As do other countries. What’s important is that Spain is making great efforts to control these outbreaks.”

Spain was one of the hardest hit countries in Europe by the coronavirus and has already suffered more than 28,000 fatalities, the fourth-highest tally in Europe after the U.K., Italy and France. A national lockdown started in March had largely tamed the spread of Covid-19, but the easing of those restrictions and the start of the summer tourism season has contributed to an uptick, particularly among young people frequenting crowded bars and clubs.

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